In a break from very occasional posts about obscure points on the Cardiff skyline, this post looks at one of its most obvious.
The Principality Stadium is the national stadium of Wales and one of Cardiff’s architectural crown jewels. Formerly known as the Millennium Stadium, it is a primary regional venue to major sporting and entertainment events. Seating almost 80,000 the stadium is home to the Wales national rugby team. In 2017 it hosted the UEFA Champions League Final, and it regularly stages the biggest pop stars in the world. Then there are a host of other annual events from Speedway to Monster Trucks.
It is unusual in being located squarely in the middle of the city. This is a reason why it is embraced so readily by other traders in Cardiff. Everyone benefits from the stadium and the thousands of people regularly drawn there.
Of course it is a feature of the Cardiff skyline, though not as obscure as previous landmark posts on Wenvoe Transmitting Station, Garth Hill or St Augustine’s Church in Penarth. And I have plenty of photographs of it, some of which are unusual. So, here is a blog.
The Principality Stadium can be seen for miles around. The distinctive pointed tips are easy to find when scanning across the city and it looms over most, but not all, buildings in the immediate surroundings.
If you find the stadium, you can navigate your way across the city, viewing it from afar.
Even in the most distant reaches of the city, when it starts to border the Vale of Glamorgan, it can be made out through the trees.
When the light is favourable this stadium can be supremely photogenic. Before a prestige international football friendly between Wales and Spain in October 2018 it looked resplendent.
It was one of those indifferent weather days when it had rained and been overcast for much of the day before exploding with vibrant colour in a small window of golden hour sunlight. It didn’t look too shabby inside either.
A more regular feature of the sporting calendar is the Six Nations rugby internationals, when it is packed out for every game. There is an atmosphere on those big match days like no other.
It also serves as a stop for most major UK concert tours.
In June 2019 I attended a press event celebrating the 20th birthday of the stadium. Media were given a tour of the stadium and allowed to climb up to the roof, affording sweeping views across the city.
Sadly it was an indifferent, cloudy weather day. With blue skies the pictures would have popped that bit better.
Few people would ever have imagined the stadium would take on its current function as a mass NHS field hospital accommodating 2,000 beds. It is undergoing that transformation now in April 2020, when we are in the grip of a global pandemic.
Like many venues around the UK and across the world, large event venues are being mobilised to manage high volumes of coronavirus patients. Another field hospital accommodating around 200 beds is taking shape inside the Welsh Rugby Union’s centre of excellence facility at the Vale of Resort, while a drive-through testing centre is starting at Cardiff City Stadium.
It is a stark and awful reminder that while such venues are designed for the staging of joyful sporting spectacles and mass entertainment, they have the versatility to be converted to serve a far more serious purpose, if and when required.
An update about a month after first posting, with a few external pictures of the, thankfully until now, largely untested Dragon’s Heart Hospital.
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